You might be wondering, “what’s the right type of exercise for me to try?” or “how long should I exercise?” While figuring out how to begin a new exercise routine may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. As you get started, use this guide to learn about the five main types of exercise and how to safely incorporate physical activity into your day.
Remember to always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program.
The five types of exercise
When you think of the word “exercise,” what comes to mind? Exercises are physical activities that help to maintain or enhance your physical and general health.1 Rather than only relying on one or two types, try incorporating several into your routine to challenge yourself and support different areas of your health.
Aerobic exercises increase your breathing and heart rate.2 Aerobic activities, like jogging, have a regular pace, test your endurance, and use glucose (blood sugar) and fat for energy. This type of exercise may help to improve your endurance by giving your heart and lungs a workout.2
Aerobic exercise may offer you many benefits, including:3
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving your mood
- Increasing your ability to burn fat
It may also help lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and depression.4
If you want to give it a try: Swimming, walking, cycling and dancing are all excellent ways to get your heart rate up.
Not to be confused with aerobic exercises, anaerobic exercises are quick and intense, involving short bursts of energy. Anaerobic activities only use glucose as fuel. During high intensity exercise, less oxygen is being delivered to your muscles, prompting your body to use blood sugar as an immediate energy source.5
Anaerobic exercise may:6
- Increase your bone density and strength
- Maintain your weight
- Protect your joints
If you want to give it a try: Sprinting, weight training and jumping rope are great anaerobic activities.
Strength training helps to build muscle, which naturally begins to weaken with age.7 By strengthening and maintaining your muscle health, it may be easier to accomplish regular tasks, like carrying groceries or pushing a lawnmower.
Strength training may help to:7
- Improve your balance and posture
- Reduce pain and stress in your lower back and joints
- Help with controlling your weight
If you want to give it a try: You can try strength training exercises using barbells, dumbbells, gym equipment, or your own body weight.8 Examples of different exercises include curls, squats, lunges, and push-ups.
Balance exercises help to improve stability. Improved balance may help prevent falls and allows you to feel more secure on your feet.9 Maintaining good balance also enables you to stand, walk and go up and down stairs more easily.
Working on your balance can help you stay in tune with your body and even increase performance.10 Try these simple balancing exercises:
- Standing on one foot for 10 seconds each
- Walking heel-to-toe for 20 steps
If you want to give it a try: Other exercises that may improve your balance include tai chi and various types of yoga.
As you age, your muscles and tendons begin to lose their flexibility. Regularly stretching muscles helps keep them long and more flexible, which may help reduce the risk of injury and pain, and increase your range of motion.9 Stretching has many benefits, including reducing the risk of sore muscles after a workout and preventing muscle damage, strains, joint pain, and muscle cramps.9 The American Council on Exercise recommends stretching after a workout, when your muscles have already been warmed up.11
If you want to give it a try: Gentle yoga classes are a great way to improve your flexibility while improving your strength.
How to incorporate physical activity into your day
By gradually beginning to exercise, you’ll ease your body into doing more physical activity.
Start slowly and listen to your body. Begin introducing exercise slowly to reduce the risk of injury. Try going for a brisk walk, swimming, or a doing 10-minute workout at home to start. Most workout videos and classes offer modified routines to help you build up to a more intense level. The Centers for Disease Control recommend building up to “150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent mix of the two each week.”12 It's important to listen to your body — so if something doesn't feel right, stop exercising and rest.
Find a fitness buddy. Working out with someone is a great way to connect with friends and meet new people. What’s more, a workout buddy will help hold you accountable. Trying a new class or type of workout with a friend can make it more enjoyable too!
Try different exercises. Experiment with different classes and types of exercises until you find something that you like. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, you’re more likely to stick with a new workout routine when it doesn’t feel like a chore.13
Finding an exercise program that works for you is a great way to build healthy habits on your road to weight loss and better health.
If you’re ready to start focusing on your health with the right support to help you reach your goals, Jenny Craig can help. Contact us to set up your free appointment today.
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, CA. They’ve focused on writing within the health and wellness space for the last several years, but have dabbled in the tech and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Stephanie employs a “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoys the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find them photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: Green apple slices with sunflower butter.
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and reviewed by certified professionals.
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Edited by Stephanie E - Jenny Craig